My mother got the ocelot coat about 1940. She hung it in the cedar closet with Uncle George’s raccoon coat that for some reason we’d inherited. If I lay them over the coffee table I could make a cave. I was probably 4. 1958. I colored on the bottom of the table with black and red crayons. The coat wasn’t really all that old then. The raccoon maybe goes back to about 1923.
Uncle Jim made the coffee table Jenny has now out of boards from the floor of the IBM plant in Poughkeepsie He was a plumber. Forty dollars an hour in 1966. More than I make now and I have an MD.
Granny Outwater’s father was a butcher. Your Nai Nai knows a lot about meat.
I worked at the Big Banana at least six summers, high school, college, medical school.
The first item on my Social Security record says I earned $700 in 1968. I was fourteen. Osco drug. Camera counter. Got to see everyone’s pictures. You’d be surprised to see how many people you wouldn’t want to see naked take pictures of themselves in the bathtub.
In 1963 the Hell’s Angels rioted at Weirs Beach. We’d driven through the crowd about an hour earlier in one of Grandfather’s VW bugs. I had a new kitten. I held her to the window and waved her little paws at the bikers.
I had a pair of leather pants and a vest with zippers the summer I was 14. Bought with my own money. They might not have been real leather but they looked like it. They were useful for many years of Halloween parties. Someone must have borrowed them. I can’t remember throwing them out.
I never did have a Davy Crockett hat but I did have a pair of six shooters and a holster.
Two holsters. And a red hat. I had a habit of shooting people with my fingers. 1958. I had a habit of clutching my chest and falling dead.
In short, may I directly and indirectly
offer help and happiness to all my mothers
and secretly take upon myself
all their harm and suffering
–8 Verses of Training the Mind
Bodhisattva Langri Tangpa
believe impossible things
(men alone are quite capable of every wickedness)
(the place is here, the way leads everywhere)
when all else seems to have failed
every great change
(remember that the manna descended from heaven daily)
they went about to change others
each instant, free
(what dies inside us. . .)
(what matters is how you choose to love)
even impossible dreams
Trying to say the Hail Mary with full attention
I knew I could be saved. I could save others. My Episcopalian grandfather coughing up blood. My catholic grandfather with prostrate cancer. My little atheist cousin already dead. If I could just do this one thing. Each word with full intention and meaning. But already I was stuck. ‘Hail;’ hello or was it hail like falling from the sky? Vail, well, she wore one, or hale as in hearty or vale as in valley? Or was it ‘Hail’ as in Hallelujah, that could be it, Hallelujah Mary, and I saw Mary McMullen, Mrs. McMullen next door who was always losing the car keys and burning the toast. Scottish Mary. Mary Queen of Scots. There was some kind of problem there. The Queen Mary. A boat. Oh darn it. I’ve lost it. Try again. ‘Hail Mary full of Grace.’ Aunt Grace? Aunt Grace who was mean to me when I couldn’t butter my bread without tearing it. Who taught school and I was glad I didn’t have her as a teacher. Who. Start over. Hail-Mary-Full-of-Grace-the-
Lord.’ Too chantlike. And
‘the Lord.’ The Lord-God-of Hosts.’ the angelic Hosts? The Communion Host? The
Host of Heaven and Earth? Would Mary be the Hostess? Hostess cupcake. No no no
no no. Start AGAIN.
was that ‘you’–‘the’‘Lord’‘be’‘with’‘ you.’I can’t remember. Start over. How am
I gonna do a hundred if I can’t do one. BlessedArtThouAmongstVirgins (Thou? If
its Thou its Thee. Amongst? Among. and Virgin. White as the Virgin Snow. Virgin
Olive Oil. Olive Oil. Olive Oyl. No no no. No no.) I’m never gonna save
anybody. I’m going straight to Hell.
BLESSEDISTHEFRUITOFTHYWOMB. Fruit of the Womb? Fruit of the Womb? Fruit? Fruit of the Loom? Underwear? Underwear covered with Fruit. No No No JESUS. Sorry Daddy I didn’t mean to say it no I was praying Daddy I wouldn’t say it I wouldn’t take the name of the lord in vain. Oh no It’s BLESSED ART THOU AMONGST WOMAN. No virgin at all. But she was A Virgin. That’s why I said Virgin. I was trying. Really I was. Holy Mary Mother of God. No, I wasn’t swearing. I swear. It’s part of the prayer. Really. PRAY for us SINNERS. Now. And. At. The. Hour. OF. OUR. DEATH. (HOUR OF OUR DEATH. HOUR OF OUR DEATH. I’m never going to sleep tonight. Better try for a thousand. NOW.) AMEN.